What it's like to tour the CA State Archives

Touring the CA State Archives was like the Nicholas Cage movie "National Treasure" but more focused on California history (and no heist/theft... at least on my part.)

Located a block away from the State Capitol building (in Sacramento), the State Archives is the storage place of government records, books, documents, and various artifacts.


I along with four of my coworkers went on a tour for our office, and tours are generally open to the public on certain dates (including home schooled children). I figured it'd be the only time I'd check out the Archives, whereas my coworker Kelly was literally leaping with excitement, chattering about Constitutional debate documents.

Our tour guide was very excited to be speaking with people other than his coworkers/happy to share his random knowledge of California [although he said not to trust some of the captions since Kelly found an error describing a Veteran's home in Sonoma County rather than her home county Napa, which I predict she will become either the Assemblymember/Senator and then she will become Governor.] First we walked into the reading room, which was apparently designed by the same architecture company who designed the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was reminiscent of a shark tark- ovular with a few windows similar to viewing panels. 

Soon we descended into the stacks: looking at various records and pictures from over 40-100 years ago. Our tour guide pulled out a few documents specially geared towards us, such as Jerry Brown's original campaign statement from his first run for political office in 1970 for CA Secretary of State. I was impressed that he raised over $100,000 in 1970, but also the first listed donor was Frank Sinatra! 


We also got to see what his expenditures were on his campaign, including his bougie hotel stays: 


Our tour guide's favorite document was this marijuana themed hearing transcript: 


We then looked at old pictures of the Capitol in Sacramento taken by the Department of Finance: 

The stairs looked fancy, but were probably removed since they're not ADA friendly.

We also saw pictures of inmates taken from the 1890s: 


They were dressed in different outfits in case they re-committed crimes. I didn't even know cameras existed over 100 years ago! (Also - I apologize in the .000000001% chance that I posted a picture of your relative, I am happy to take down this photo if it offends your family). 

Next, we moved onto blueprints and maps planning the cities, and I got to help unfold one of Solano County: 


It's also interesting to think about how we keep track of our progress and records - although electronic databases take up less physical space, they are easier to delete. The electronic media vault was one of the colder parts of the Archives, and they had an inert gas system to prevent the loss of data in case of a fire since water would damage the electronics. The scary part would be the loss of oxygen, but it's a smart system for loss prevention.

Nearby was the most secure vault in the building, which stored the most politically significant and economically valuable records. Unfortunately, we were not able to access the vault, but our tour guide mentioned that people have asked to seen such records but are scrutinized very carefully. 

One of the last stops was the "artifact" room, which was basically a warehouse style storage. Highlights included the original lotto wheel, 

(I have no idea what the creepy sun is)

and Earl Warren's desk when he was Governor of CA (Warren was also the Alameda District Attorney, CA Attorney General, and the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court! #Goals- to the AG and SCOTUS part) 


It's not everyday you see something a hundred years older than you, but it does make me think about how far we've come as a state and how far we'll go. My belongings will probably not have much value in the future, but I'm now more interested in documenting things for the sake of history (and to have fond memories of the past.) 

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